The Merseyside Derby – but not as we know it
This Sunday sees the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park and Liverpool usually go into this game all guns blazing off the back of impressive form, and light years ahead of Everton in the league table.
But the tables have turned this year, with Brendan Rodgers’ Reds having what could be kindly put as a sluggish start to the season, while David Moyes’ Blues gelling, clicking – whatever you like to call it – excelling at fourth place in the top flight. It is a situation that doesn’t come around too often, making the city’s bragging rights and the three points to be given away this Sunday even more tense than usual.
My season ticket at Anfield hasn’t had much joy this year, with just one win in five games. However, it was probably that win – a narrow 1-0 victory at the expense of Reading last Saturday – that was our worst performance of the season.
A win’s a win and I’m the most optimistic / completely unrealistic Liverpool fan you’ll find, but there was a feeling at Anfield last weekend that this victory wasn’t one the Reds will bounce onto a run of good form from.
But there are little glimmers of light coming through this sticky Liverpool form. Raheem Sterling continues to make a name for himself, so much so that he is due an England call-up at the tender age of 17. Likewise, 18 year old Spanish starlet Suso looks to have the intelligence of a footballer of many years experience – all from just a handful of first team starts for the Reds.
Nearing towards the other end of the age spectrum though, our Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard needs to find his feet quickly. It’d be hard to drop Gerrard after so many matchsaving performances over the years, but his passes of late have been sloppy and are not welcome in Rodgers’ tiki-taki football ideal. I would suggest dropping him, saving his legs for later in the season, but we’re not a squad overrun with options – especially with Lucas sitting on the sidelines injured again – and the Reds number 8 was made for big Derby games.
So bring on the opponents. Everton, soaring high this early in the term, could well produce another outstanding performance to swoop and inflict more misery on Rodgers’ mixed start at Anfield. Or they could be tested by a Liverpool side that so far this season has held the champions Manchester City, demolished Norwich with the impressive prowess of Luis Suarez and, perhaps more motivating than usual, have a more important chance to snatch victory in the neighbours’ back garden.
And finally, a look ahead to this particular Merseyside Derby would not be right without a mention of the recent breakthroughs in the fight for justice for the Hillsborough disaster. Everton fans have shown class, respect and determination since the start and the families of the 96 now have the truth. Thank you, Evertonians.